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If it wasn’t for Chelsea taking up the slack, United could probably lose every game between now and the end of the season and still lift the title. The inconsiderate Blues are threatening to make things interesting at the top of the table though and the next three league games are going to be crucial for Ferguson’s side, starting with the visit of an in-form Everton.
The 3-3 draw at Goodison Park back in September suggested to many that this United team didn’t have the necessary talent, grit or winning mentality to lift their 19th title. In the end it turns out no-one else did either and they’re now looking to become the winningest team in English football, if only by default. The weaknesses which were apparent in that game are still there though and Ferguson will be happy to be facing Everton at Old Trafford, where they have the impressive record of champions, despite several underwhelming showings.
Coming in to this game on a seven-game unbeaten run in which they’ve won five and drawn two, will give Everton fans hope of getting some of this game, as will United’s insipid draw against Newcastle. It was a total dive by the way. However, the last league match they won in Old Trafford was back in 1992 and they’re rightly 13/2 underdogs to add a little excitement to title race by handing United a first home loss of the season. At that price and on current form they’re worth a bet but probably only a small one. David Moyes tiny squad has been tinier still of late with a raft of injuries to key players and a lack of options could hamper his ambitions in this game. Having Tim Cahill back will be a big boost if the Aussie is passed fit to play and at 10/1 to score first and 16/5 to score anytime, he’ll be the obvious choice amongst the Everton players to come up with a goal.
Away from home United’s weaknesses, a weak midfield and an often injury hit defence, have been exposed all season but at home they’ve been a typical Ferguson team, finding a way to win often in spite of their performances. A quality which has been core to his success during his reign at the club. Thankfully for him, Rooney is hitting form at the right whilst the continuously impressive Hernandez gives them real potency in attack. Valencia’s return from injury has been well timed too and with Nani managing to stay on his feet more often than not these days, they have real threats down both flanks, which should make for some interesting battles with the Everton full-backs. Rooney is the strong favourite to score first at 3/1 but if you like a bigger price on your goalscorers then Valencia at 9/1 is a decent price.
Hopefully this will be a little more entertaining than the fare served up at St James’ on Tuesday and Everton are sure to cause plenty of problems for the league leaders. However, it’s hard to ignore United’s home record and though it might not be pretty, it’s equally difficult not to see them finding a way to win at 4/9.